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Oksana Stomina: This is medieval cruelty, multiplied by the modern possibilities and sick, maniacal ambitions

04.05.2022
Leonid Golberg

Today Mariupol is practically the most discussed topic, “The City of Shot Virgin”, as it is called today due to tragedy that occurred here. Mariupol became the symbol of Ukrainecide committed by Russis on Ukrainian soil, it is called the 21st century Gernika and compared to Syrian Aleppo, the destruction of which Russia is also involved in.

Blood freezes in veins and the chills go up the spine when you hear the eyewitnesses’ stories The veins are cold, the frost is on your skin when you hear the stories of self-seekers about the horrors of war in one of the most beautiful cities of our Azov region.

And it is impossible to imagine how our interlocutor survived this, a short, fragile, but surprisingly courageous woman, a poet, a civil activist, a volunteer, Oksana Stomina.

When you talk to her, despite everything she survived, you see and feel the courage and unbreakable willpower inherent in this amazing contemporary of ours.

Miss Oksana’s story is a true document of the day, the evidence of crimes against humanity in the center of the continent in the 21st century. And a proof of the fact that there may be no excuse to Russia’s crimes, no compromise with Putin;s war criminals.

– You have just said that in the recent days there became “less” of you. What did you mean?

– My jeans don’t hold on me. But, probably, it is not due to lack of food or something. I mean that I got older in those days. As my daughter said “I only hoped that you are small and hard to hit”. Probably, that’s why I became even smaller: to be harder to target (smiling – Auth.). Somehow I think so.

– Are you a native resident of Mariupol? 

– Yes, I was born in Mariupol, my entire family lives in Mariupol, my grandparents are buried there. My daughter was born there. You know, she helped me a lot to survive those days of the tragedy: it seemed that she was holding my hand that entire time. Even when there was no connection I thought I felt her presence. Then she helped us leave, built a route, learned where it was safer to go. Although the safety was out of the question, when we discussed Mariupol and the road from it. You know? it’s all measured by the scale between “very dangerous” and “complete disaster”. It was more or less like this.

– How does Mariupol look now?

The city is completely ruined

– Lately we did a lot of things in the city. Built a lot. I love Mariupol in general. I always said that each person builds their own city around themselves. And I was building this city my entire life – gathered the brightest people whom I can trust, searched for interesting historical places, certain information about it.

I did something for this city. And it always did something for me. And now you can say that it is leveled. There is no intact places there: a hit here, a fire there. Almost every building was damaged. The city is completely ruined…

– What did you exactly have to survive?

– We lived near a war for eight years, and we got used that something like this is happening. But the thing I saw today cannot be compared to anything. It is a horror movie plot, in which the role of bloodthirsty Dracula is played by Putin and his soldiers who somehow decided that it is okay to kill people in such quantities. It is horrible, it is medieval cruelty, multiplied by modern possibilities and sick, maniacal ambitions.

– When and how did you leave Mariupol?

– I left Mariupol on March 16. And we were going for too long. I was here already probably on March 20 or 21.

“My husband literally forced me to get in the car”

– We were going so long because we were getting out by four cars, one of which was broken to the maximum, there was literally no intact place on it. Another one is an old “Zhiguli” belonging to our parents, my husband gave that car to a young family to provide an opportunity to leave.

There were many of us, although I did not count. Several families, many children. We left suddenly. We delayed packing our things for long, but one moment my husband’s brother’s family ran out of patience in surviving it all and they packed their bags, got in the car, visited me. And my husband insisted that I should go, literally forced me in the car. He did not even allow me to go up to our flat. So I left with minimum of things, with tiny, five liter, shoulder bag. I left my laptop with notes (I don’t think I would have gotten away with it if I was stopped at a checkpoint). Although I did take our Mariupol souvenir – it is always with me. It is a tiny copy of a tetrapod. At one time, such constructs were erected in the city to strengthen the coastline, so these gray structures were painted and then, as a symbol of Mariupol, tetrapods became a popular souvenir.

I would have probably remained because I thought I had to be there, while there is hope, while I can do something for someone, for my Mariupolers…

But on the day I left it was already clear that the people who remained, I don’t mean the military, but the civilians like myself, they aren’t natives, in fact, they in a way obstruct the military.

– What do you know about the people whop remained in the city?

– There are many people whose fate we don’t know for sure. Several days ago there was news which is not yet confirmed, so we pray and hope that the confirmation won’t come. The confirmation about the grandma of the wife of the man who brought me out. The grandma remained at home, she almost never went outside, she could not move on her own. And when she was home the house burned down. And we currently don’t lnow what happened to the grandma…

“He died twice…”

– There is a lot of such information. Recently I learned that our friend, a very cool, decent, honest, fair man, extremely good man Vitya Dedov, who worked on the local TV and the TV channel “Sigma”, died in the kitchen of his own house. Moreover, he died twice. Because there was almost no opportunity to bury people, his body remained home for two or three days, and then his house was hit again and it burned down. His relatives were already in the shelter, they went up to the building which was already in flames, but they could not open the doors, and Victor’s body burned down…

“You need to tell about the war only in this manner: about specific stories of people, first-hand stories”

– Such are the stories, really terrible. You know, it seems to me that you need to tell about the war only in this manner: about specific stories, not the general numbers, not even the number of casualties. Because if a person does not receive it thorough themselves, if they do not compare it to themselves, to their or their relative’s life, it is all the same for it: be it ten people or one person or hundreds. The person won’t even imagine the scale. And when you tell how a bomb fell in your neighbor’s yard, how my acquaintance’s husband’s or father’s hand was ripped off by shrapnel, how he took that hand and went to search for a hospital… and that nobody saw him after that… Those are firsthand stories. Those are real facts.

I want to say that those horrible people, those animals, they did not just kill, they chased and then killed. For example, when a theater, or a pool, or an art school was hit, those were the places – and everyone knew it – containing the people who already lost their homes, there were wounded people, mothers with children, there were newborn babies and people with disabilities from the districts that were shelled first, whom we saved – from the Left Shore, from Vostochniy. And they were chased, more than once, and they tried to kill them. The same as again and again they tried to kill people who tried to leave the city.

My friend, with whom I worked in a volunteer center, took a car with her family through the so-called “green corridor”, and the car was hit, five people were wounded and a child is still in intensive care. This is a deliberate destruction of people. This is war, this is murder.

– Why Mariupol?

“We have angered them”

– When it all started in Kyiv, Kharkiv, I’ll be honest, I had a moment’s thought: let it come to Mariupol already. Because we already know how it happens. Let they hit us instead of the entire country. We are here, we are on the border, we prepared, we strengthened the eastern borders of the city and Ukraine at the same trime. But of course, I didn’t imagine what would happen…

Why Mariupol? We all understood that our city has a strategic importance. And we must have angered them. Because we were holding, developing even during the war, the city was getting bigger and better, we were proud to declare that. You know, while it was all going on, I thought, who are those people who come here to destroy?

I am a resident of a city near the sea. I always had such an image of the sea. There are people, children and adults, who build sand castles, and there is always someone who ruins those castles. The better the castle, the more eager someone is to destroy it.

It must be in their nature, probably, the things we built, our life made them lose their sleep…

“My first books about the war are translated in several languages”

– How did the war affect your creativity?

– I already wrote about that war and published the books. They are translated in several languages.

When it began in 2014, I started writing about that a year later. For almost a year I was in a stupor, couldn’t write poems. Now I still do not write poetry, only the prose. I began writing in the shelter, in a complete darkness: we were saving because we had nothing in the city, it was a real ecological disaster. We were saving flashlights and batteries and power packs for them. Saving matches. We were mostly in a complete darkness, and in it I was writing blind, making notes, because I believe it is very important. But currently it ios only prose.

– A bit more detail about your books, please. I know that some of them were illustrated by Anastasia Ponomareva.

– I have various books. About the war, in particular, poems – in Ukrainian, in Russian. There are books for children, too. And Nastya illustrated the guides – one for Mariupol, another one for Ukraine. I love history, I even took part in archaeological dig in Mariupol. And I would want that as many people as possible learned that Mariupol is a very interesting city, especially those who arrive to us, the children who grow up here and don’t know a lot about their native city. And we made play guides – books in which you can write, fill something, make notes…

Interview by Leonid Golberg


Note

Oksana Stomina is a poet and activist from Mariupol. She lives by her poems, always smiles and is full of ideas, she inspires with her empathy and his skill to do everything fairly, for real…

Currently has to live in Truskavets.

The love to harmony of a rhymed word and literature was given to Oksana by her parents. She grew up with her mom’s wonderful poems. It is interesting that the first book Oksana published with her sister Yulia was the collection of her mother’s poems for children, which they memorized and recreated easily. Oksana's father writes light and ironic prose. He is the author of a very interesting book about the first trip abroad – to Israel.

Oksana Stomina is a primary school teacher, mathematician and psychologist. Since childhood, she dreamed of being a teacher, but, in her words, “man expects - God decides …”. As a result, she was still involved in insurance and advertising.

She is painfully aware of the events of the war in the country in 2014 and the current full-scale Russian invasion. She is currently working on a book in which she wants to tell about what she has experienced and seen, about the tragedies of the people around her.

“This is history. One that we need to save” – expresses the writer who tries to make her contribution in our victory, in general – in victory of peace over war:

Each one of us is just a Universe’s atom.

I know. But those eyes to adore…

God, if you need a soldier made of him,

Give him a chance to return from the war.

God! Among the madness that takes my breath,

There is no place for cause and reason.

So, if he will be a step away from Death,

Let him look away from this country’s son!

Somewhere behind the wall of dream the cuckoos keep silent,

And there is no sun under the faith’s shards.

But let him be saved from bullets violent!

God, send him an angel that would keep guard!

If you really need him for anything so odd,

Which is not punished by your right hand?

Let him make the first shot, oh God!

And…forgive him when it all ends”.

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